Michael Gove has just given an extremely well-received half-hour
presentation to party members at the spring forum on the key points of
party policy on his education brief.

He prefaced his points by
saying that comparing education performances with the past is no longer
enough and that we need to look at international comparisons – on which
measures Britain's rankings on literacy, maths and science has been
falling under Labour against other countries.

He bemoaned the
fact that pupils from the poorest backgrounds had the lowest likelihood
of getting good GCSE and A Level results, describing this lack of
social mobility as "a tragedy".

Freeing Schools

  • Underperforming schools will be taken out of local authority
    control: This will allow schools to flourish in the way that City
    Technology Colleges did – by "freeing them from the obsessive
    micromanagement of government and stifling local bureacracy";
  • Freedom will be restored to the highest performing schools: As
    was the case with grant maintained status, but with the proviso that
    they have a partner school which is underperforming or failing –
    "liberating the strong to help the weak; helping the weak by empowering
    the strong".


  • Steps will be taken to protect teachers, who currently cannot restrain violent children or impose detentions;
  • The teacher will be in charge: Mr Gove promised to "safeguard the
    rights of the majority, not defer to the human rights of the
  • The head teacher's word will be final on exclusions;
  • Disruptive children would get the care they need and "tough love" at an appropriate alternative school;
  • The base of people brought into the teaching profession will be
    broadened, for example using those who have been in the services.

Giving pupils the teaching which suits them

  • "I will be a zealot when it comes to ensuring teaching by ability
    applies across the state sector" in order to "nurture the weakest,
    strengthen the strongest and allow the gifted and talented to soar";
  • Mr Gove said he would end the "tragedy" of forcing children with special needs to go to  mainstream schools for "dogmatic and ideological reasons" and that the closure of special schools would end.

Academic rigour

  • The exam system will be simplified, but exams will be no less
    rigorous – "it's hard to see how they could be", he said, before citing
    some examples of daft questions from recent papers, such as "Which part of the body dies a rider's hat protect?" (to be asked of 14 year olds);
  • A body will be set up to ensure such rigour in examinations.

Vocational education

  • There will be 100,000 real new apprenticeships;
  • Pupils in their early teens will get the opportunity for more hands on education if the academic route is unsuitable for them.


  • Large numbers of truants from secondary school are those who were not taught to read properly at primary school;
  • A generation has been left incapable of reading due to "trendy-lefty-beardy-weirdy thinking" on how to teach children to read;
  • Reading should be taught through systematic synthetic phonics: "It sounds old-fashioned. it is – and that's why it's good";
  • No child should leave primary school illiterate.

Giving children a truly rounded education

  • Character-building activities help to forge strength of character
    – but many schools have difficulty in providing such activities due to
    health and safety regulations and fears about litigation;
  • The Conservatives will change the law and sweep away lots of health and saftety regulations so that schools need not have such worries about litigation.

Restoring prestige to the teaching profession

  • Mr Gove said that he wanted to restore prestige and esteem to the
    teaching profession, and said he wanted graduates to consider teaching
    and "the nobility of that vocation".
  • "If you become a teacher, we will respect your professionalism…
    protect you from thugs… and give schools greater flexibility to give
    the best teachers the right rewards".

Jonathan Isaby

54 comments for: Freeing schools, restoring discipline and teaching by ability: a brief guide to Conservative education policy

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